WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide up to $110 million for basic research and technology development to design and engineer plants and microbes for the production of advanced biofuels, bioproducts, and biomaterials. The research will elucidate fundamental biological processes to enable genome-scale redesign and editing to develop more productive and resilient crops and novel microbial strains that can efficiently produce valuable chemicals and materials that will advance a sustainable and secure bioeconomy.

“Plants, bacteria, and fungi have enormous potential to be manipulated and fine-tuned to produce a broad diversity of compounds, including new chemicals and new types of materials that we have not discovered yet,” said Sharlene Weatherwax, DOE Associate Director of Science for Biological and Environmental Research. “Genome engineering tools allow us to control what molecules organisms make. New tools for genome-scale editing and engineering will not only advance biotechnology but will also enable novel fundamental biological discoveries.”

Next generation genome engineering technologies aim to unlock the potential of plants and microorganisms to safely and efficiently convert renewable biomass into high-value bioproducts and capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, addressing climate change and clean energy challenges. These technologies could also be used to convert petroleum-derived polymers into fuels, valuable chemicals, and materials with novel properties, advancing us towards a circular bioeconomy. This research will support multidisciplinary systems biology studies that integrate multi-omics technologies, computational modeling, high-throughput testing and analysis approaches, and in vivo or cell-free engineering technologies to address these challenges. Supported research will also lead to the development of high-biomass plant lines that tolerate extreme conditions, and the generation of microbial strains with new capabilities, such as the capacity to produce new materials and composites with novel properties.

Applications will be open to universities, industry, and nonprofit research institutions as the lead institution, allowing collaborations with DOE/NNSA National Laboratories and other Federal Agencies. Total planned funding is $110 million over five years, with outyear funding contingent on Congressional appropriations.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement, sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Department’s Office of Science, can be found here.